I think Ben would be proud of that title. And after seven seasons of Parks and Recreation, that actually matters to me. I’ve seen a few final seasons in my time, and I’ve seen my share of series finales. And while I’ve also missed more than a few, I’m betting Parks and Rec would garner the most positive feedback from a community forum. Here’s why:
Each season, even in a comedy, there has to be a balance of upping the stakes and, especially in a comedy, keeping the status quo. Each Parks and Rec seasonal arc took Leslie to a higher level of government. She won some, she lost some, but each step took her closer to the congressional seat (and implied Presidency) of the finale. She wasn’t the only one who leveled up in their class. Tom went from failed entrepreneur to successfully-failed entrepreneur turned writer/business guru. April went from pathless intern to personal career counselor. Andy went from annoying leech to children’s television hero. Even Garry ended up as Mayor of Pawnee. Seeing the characters keep moving up over the seasons, but especially in season 7 was intensely gratifying.
The balance of the status quo remained in the core of the characters, but Parks and Rec took risks to advance the characters’ relationships and perspectives. Each of them grew as people. Perhaps most endearing of these was Donna. She started the series as the distant, sassy, but spectacular office assistant. But her friendships with Tom, Leslie, and April grew with every season. Finally, in season 7 she even befriended Garry. Keeping true to who she’s been, she spent an afternoon watching Garry lose everything valuable to him down a grate in the courtyard in bumbling Garry fashion. But when it was all over, she drove him home. Then in the morning, she returned all of his valuables, having gotten a maintenance worker to open the grate. She even brought fresh oranges to appease Garry’s wife Gail.
Speaking of Garry, the previous seasons largely use him as a hapless gag bag. To be honest, it might be the most annoying aspect of the show to me, or second most after Mona-Lisa Saperstein. However, each season sprinkles in more love for Garry. It starts by the local doctor, who has been checking the male employees for mumps, commenting that Garry’s has the biggest penis he’s ever seen. It continues with more and more views of Garry’s idyllic home life, his gorgeous wife and daughters, their beautiful Christmas party, their sing-along breakfasts. Then Ben goes on a day-long date with Garry after Leslie is too busy to go with, and Ben realizes that Garry’s really great. In season 7, Garry accomplishes his dream of becoming a notary. At Donna’s wedding, Donna “misspells” Garry’s name the actual right way. Ben makes him Mayor. He dies at age 100 with a gigantic, loving, beautiful family. Season 7 gives whats due to the wonderful gag bag, Garry Gergich.
The whole finale was dedicated to giving each character a dream ending. And while that might otherwise have felt contrived, here it felt like the best Christmas morning ever. The characters, who we’d grown to love over seven seasons, were now having their stories neatly tied up with little snippets of future stories to give us humorous but satisfying glimpses into their futures. There were weddings and children and Secret Service and reunions. And each was tied with a humorous but heart-felt bow.